Please allow me to stray away from our regular posting cycle just for a week, as I’d like to recommend this 3 part documentary series which can be accessed from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) free streaming service iView.
At work we’re embarking for the first time to actively seek candidates with disability, which is fantastic! As everyone in society deserves the right to have access to equal employment opportunities, thus they can realise their full potential and make a livelihood for themselves. Yeah? Agreed?
So I was more open minded to watch ‘Employable Me’ when my wife suggested to watch it as she had seen a TV advert teasing the release of series 2, while series 1 was available right now on iView. To be honest with you, in the past I would have been hesitant in watching this, as these topics are always confronting and challenges your pre-conceptions; and in the evenings when I’m chilling, I just want to be entertained by shows, I don’t want to be made uncomfortable, with the truth. But since I was performing some tasks at work to assist the team tasked with achieving our Equity & Diversity goals, I thought it prudent that I watched this to get into the right head-space.
Employable Me (methinks word-play on the Universal film Despicable Me) originally was a British program which aired on BBC2 to much acclaim; before Canada produced their own version which aired on AMI-TV; and the ABC joined the party by producing its own version in 2018, with season 2 dropping on 9 April.
Australia’s version of Employable Me is produced by Northern Pictures, which features stories from 9 young individuals (split into 3 groups of 3- 60 min episodes), with neuro-diverse conditions such as autism, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, and Fragile X Syndromes. Within the given time, the show first introduces each individual so we the viewer can get to know them as people; before learning of their work/career experiences/histories/aspirations; then leading to an outing- to ‘cold call’ on some potential employers (often to little success); which segues to individual meetings with experts to either uncover their hidden talents, or collaborating with a job coach to increase their chances to land a suitable role; until the final 15 mins is spent looping back around to another perspective employer who gives them a limited duration work trial. By the end of the episode, there is a sense of closure for the viewer, as when they show the final images of each person, in captions it updates us as to where each of them have progressed months after filming had concluded, i.e. landed full-time employment, or was still seeking.
For me I found the show incredibly insightful, as often times we have heard of these conditions, but realistically we don’t actually know much about them at all. Sure, rightfully or wrongfully so popular culture has occasionally brought to prominence some conditions, i.e. Deuce Bigalow’s depiction of Tourette Syndrome and The Good Doctor’s depiction of one on the autism spectrum- which in a way has shed light and generated conversations about these conditions; however obviously they have swayed us to think of these conditions in a certain way. And it’s only when you meet real people with these lived experiences, that has now changed my understanding of how these conditions actually impact the individual, and how individuals are able to work around these conditions.
The show was put together wonderfully, as it really allowed for each individual’s unique character to shine through first and foremost; and it was both honest, while showcasing each of them in a positive and heart-warming light. There definitely weren’t any cringing moments here, if anything I found myself smiling for most of the show as the individuals were guys/gals you could really warm to, and see yourself getting behind. So the show Employable Me has both educated me, changed me, and surprisingly entertained me as well! Definitely worth viewing if you’re a person who is always looking to self-improve and to be more empathetic.
And trying to be objective, the two critiques of the show I had was that this season at least, the focus was only on neuro conditions; when other overseas versions covered a wider range of disabilities- it would be nice to see a more diverse selection of people next time (although we might just see that in season 2). And the last critique, was that it was really interesting to see how autism and Asperger’s only means that the brain is wired differently from the norm. And who is to say that the way that their mental circuitry is wired, is wired incorrectly- when you watch the show you’ll see that each of them have incredible minds and an amazing ability to store and retrieve memories which puts the 99% of us to absolute shame. For some, within their area of expertise, it was almost like asking ‘Google’, as they could tell you the answer straight away- so who is to say that they aren’t the top 1% and we the majority are the bottom 99%? Ok, ok, I’m coming to my point of criticism……… My critique of this, is that the show depicts that the vast majority of disabled people have a hidden skill- which off-sets and can be exploited by an employer. However what if you’re in that 99% of people, and then later in life you acquire an injury or disease which leaves you permanently disabled? If enough of us watch Employable Me, we might be led to believe that every disabled guy and girl has this near super-power, but what if they really don’t have a special skill to begin with, and then become disabled? The show does set a very high bar for others to meet, which I’m thinking is a little bit unfair to set the expectations so high, when realistically the majority may not be able to meet this lofty pedestal. It just makes that task of finding work, that much harder when 8 of 9 were shown to possess near genius levels of mental power. I think this could have been avoided if the chosen individuals did represent a wider representation of disabilities, so I guess this links in with critique no. 1.
So yeah, aside from these issues, the show is truly worthwhile! I’m usually recommending shows from Netflix, and I’m aware that not everyone has a subscription- but iView is totally free to use (if you’re in Australia), so no excuses for Sydney-siders not to be watching this! Definitely worth 3 hours of your time.
P.S. Since writing this post, Season 2 episode 1 has aired on the ABC, in this season they do follow a more diverse array of people and the outcomes are probably more reflective of the reality for disabled job seekers i.e. that unfortunately there isn’t always a happy ending.